PSA: A new literary-inspired webseries based on Dracula just started on Youtube: Episode 1 is up. “Mina Murray’s Journal” is loosely based on the book but it looks intriguing!
We are at the halfway point for our Dracula readalong so it’s SURVEY TIME. Comment with your answers or with a link to an answer post on your website. Try to keep spoilers only through Chapter 14 in your answers (that’s where we will be on Tuesday).
1. What has been the biggest surprise for you so far, in terms of plot, characters, tone, anything and everything? 2. Who is your favorite character so far and why? 3. Do you like the format of the book – how it’s made up of various fictional documents by the different characters? Why or why not? Do you think it’s effective? Why or why not? 4. Has anything about the book turned you off /annoyed you specifically? Eg Victorian attitudes, a character’s personality, etc. 5. Why do you think Dracula goes after Lucy, rather than Mina? 6. Where do you think the story will go from here, OR where do you want the story to go from here?
I hope you’re all enjoying the book to some degree so far, especially those of you reading for the first time! I’m having a great time rereading it – I’m noticing a lot of things I haven’t before.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Fall TBR. Some of these books are at the top of my TBR in general and some have recently come out or are coming out real soon.
1. The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: The Magisterium Book #3! It’s a magic school series with amazing friendships and includes a Chaos-ridden wolf pet, so, get on that (I’m just about to start it now that I’ve finished Six of Crows).
2. Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews: Book #8 in the Kate Daniels paranormal fantasy series. These are very formulaic but they have a ton of awesome magic battles and mysteries and I love them.
3. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: I just finished Six of Crows last night but I am very ready for more adventures in crime and magic! Inej is the Wraith of my heart.
4. The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan: The sequel to the first Magnus Chase book comes out really soon on October 4th. I eat up any Rick Riordan and the first one was very intriguing – this one is reimagining Norse mythology and features a really well-done Loki.
6. Ahsoka by EK Johnston: I’m a huge E.K. Johnston fan and a HUGE Star Wars fan so I am all over this one. Ahsoka is a really amazing Force-using character from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and is about her journey after Order 66 (comes out October 11th).
7. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan: Did I mention I have a huge Rick Riordan problem? This one is already out and is the first in a new series about Apollo. I’ve been saving it for a rainy day, I guess, because it sounds amazing.
8. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan: I love David Levithan’s collaborations with Rachel Cohn and John Green so I’m excited to see how this one is. It’s a contemporary friendship YA about Kate and Mark and tbh I don’t care about the plot just these authors working together.
9. Jerkbait by Mia Siegert: A YA about two twin brothers that have to learn to live in close quarters after one of the twins tries to commit suicide. I’ve read the first chapter and it’s promising, although I’m not familiar with the author.
“We are hedged in with difficulties.” – Jack Seward
We get one “new” perspective in this section, albeit a short one, with the letters concerning the shipment of boxes. I love how the delivery company is like “yeah sure we’ll deliver these giant boxes to this “partially ruined building” (119), it’s your business if your stuff gets ruined from exposure.” These foreigners don’t know how to care for their possessions, am I right.
Dracula has been MIA lately, unless that’s him as a bat/large bird (???) that is outside of Lucy’s window a couple of times (116/117). I wish the dates in the book were more consistent, because it would be fun to line up Renfield’s behavior with what Dracula might be doing at the time based on what’s happening with Lucy.
I really enjoy Seward’s understatements regarding Renfield, eg “a strong Man with homicidal and religious mania at once might be dangerous” (123) and about his mood swings: “it would almost seem as if there was some influence which came and went” (131-2).
Anyway, back to our friends.
“Some of ‘New Woman’ writers will some day start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting. But I suppose the New Woman won’t condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself. And a nice job she will make of it, too!” (110-111)
The New Woman that Mina refers to was the term used to describe the emerging group of women, mostly middle class, who were interested in crazy things like voting or working or simply being independent. I can’t really tell how much Mina approves or disapproves of the whole idea. DISCUSS?
Jonathan is back, our dear Jon full of all “his sweetness and gentleness” (123). some of the images in this book are great, and Jon running into the train station screaming about monsters is one of them. I like how Mina feels secure about “no other woman” (128) being in between her and Jon, but the argument can be made that there are THREE women and a man between them. It’s probably fine though. JUST READ THE DAMN JOURNAL, MINA.
I’m impressed with Stoker’s choices of perspectives. For example, I’m glad we don’t get Arthur or Morris (maybe later, I forget). Seward’s perspective is enough to show us all of the Lucy Fanclub feelings, and his job as mental asylum doctor is a lot more plot-relevant than anything Arthur or Morris are doing. I’m also glad we don’t get Van Helsing (maybe later, I forget), as it would kill a lot of the slow-build suspense that is working really well at this point in the story.
I was trying to find out info on chloral hydrate, the thing Seward is taking because he is incredibly emo and upset over Lucy (124). Apparently it’s an early sedative, which sounds totally fine to take to cure insomnia. Don’t do drugs, Jack.
The blood transfusions are really interesting and horrifying. BLOOD TYPES ARE A THING. But it’s interesting how much importance they place on the act; Jack continues to have no chill about anything: “Jack has absolutely no chill “No man knows till he experiences it, what it is to feel his own life-blood drawn away into the veins of the woman he loves” (154) and Van Helsing is concerned that Arthur will be jealous if he knows Jack has also given Lucy blood.
Speaking of Van Helsing, THIS GUY. One of the first things he said in his first letter makes my head spin:
“Tell your friend that when that time you suck from my wound so swiftly the poison of the gangrene from that knife that our other friend, too nervous, let slip, you did more for him when he wants my aids and you call for them than all his great fortune could do.” (137)
I have no idea what he’s saying, there. Who sucked gangrene from where because who was dropping a knife? How would sucking it from a knife help, I don’t understand, send help.
Jack’s letter: “Everything is fine pretty much”
Arthur: *BURSTS INTO THE ROOM* “DON’T LIE TO ME”
Van Helsing: “Great we need your blood”
But Van Helsing is a really helpful addition to their crew, seeing as no one has the first clue what is going on, except maybe Renfield, and no one is giving that guy the time of day. I mean, at least he knows the useful properties of common garlic.
I had to google “the smuts of London” (138) because I had no idea what Van Helsing was saying but it sounded dirty. I guess I was sorta right.
Seward quotes “The unexpected always happens” (132) which is helpful to remember in many situations including but not limited to when your friends are being hunted by vampires. If you’re unfamiliar with Benjamin Disraeli, he’s a pretty important Victorian-era dude.
I haven’t seen a decent movie adaptation of Dracula yet (although I’m a huge fan of Nosferatu, against all odds) and it’s upsetting how much material there is in the book that would be perfect in a movie and hasn’t been used yet. I am terrible at fancasting (some of these are tongue-in-cheek) but I’m going to go for it. Feel free to comment or link me with your own choices!
In Order Of Appearance:
Shawn Ashmore as Jonathan Harker
Daniel Craig as Dracula
Eva Green as Mina Murray
Lily James as Lucy Westenra
Tom Hiddleston as Jack Seward
Chris Pratt as Quincey Morris
Richard Madden as Arthur Holmwood:
I left out some characters we haven’t met yet. This fancasting is super white, too: I went with Typical Hollywood Fare if that’s not obvious. I might do another one and/or a POC one when we’re further along.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll keep mentioning that communication (through whatever medium) as power is a huge theme in this book. Dracula knows it, when he makes Jonathan write letters to mislead anyone looking for him and when he takes away all of Jonathan’s paper along with his luggage (54). I really enjoy the different forms of journals or diaries that the various characters use, eg Jonathan and Mina with stenography, Dr. Seward with the phonograph (74).
Speaking of Dr. Seward, we haven’t seen any memorandums for a while but he’s got one: “Mem. Under what circumstances would I not avoid the
pit of hell?” (75).
Why is he asking this to himself, especially at this point in the story where all he’s doing is sitting around being sad about Lucy and watching Renfield? DISCUSS.
Lucy Westenra is hilarious and great but also terrifying. I’m curious why Dr. Seward says that Lucy “is a curious psychological study” (69), as quoted by Lucy. Is it because he’s in love with her already or because there’s something about her that is interesting?
I mean, Lucy is a pretty odd girl. When Seward is trying to propose and is FIDGETING WITH AN EXTREMELY SHARP SURGICAL INSTRUMENT (70) Lucy just thinks it’s adorable. She’s also considers hanging out in graveyards as totally normal for respectable young ladies (to be fair, Mina’s right there with her on that one).
I love that the other supporting characters are first introduced as Lucy’s gaggle of suitors. “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” (73). QUESTION, do you think Lucy is secretly really pleased and vain that she has so many boys falling for her? Or is she honestly upset that she has to hurt at least two of them? DISCUSS.
Seward: Lucy rejected me, I guess I’ll go study my favorite madman to make myself feel better. Morris: Lucy rejected me, I guess I’ll invite her other boyfriends to a barbecue! Holmwood: I am so good I can express myself by telegram.
Lucy’s clearly got problems, though. When Mina’s describing her sleepwalking and says, “there is an odd concentration about her which I do not understand” (90), I got chills. First of all, yikes, and second of all, is Dracula influencing Lucy in some way? She starts sleepwalking before Dracula even (presumably, if we judge by the ship’s arrival) gets to England. DISCUSS? IDK.
Mina mentions practicing her observation skills and writing everything down, just like lady journalists (67) which is probably my favorite thing any Victorian heroine has ever said, but that’s beside the point. Is the implication that Mina is the correspondent who writes the article for the Dailygraph? In previous readings, I assumed she was just pasting in the shipwreck article and the captain’s log because it was relevant, but now I think it is written by her. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense for the article writer to mention what Swale said. Right??? Hashtag internalized misogyny because I assumed anyone writing an article would automatically be a dude. DISCUSS.
Mina doesn’t have the same kitten-like appeal to everyone around her the way Lucy does, but she still seems to attract good friends, eg the old dude Swale. And if she DID write the Dailygraph article, she managed to convince the guys in charge to let her take down the captain’s log, even though it seems like that would be classified to whatever investigations are going on.
We haven’t seen much of Renfield yet, but he seems suitably terrifying and disgusting. I honestly can’t remember anything that happens with Renfield later on, but he definitely has a vampire-like tendency of eating things for their energy, for whatever reason.
We haven’t seen Dracula for a while, but am I correct in assuming the giant dog that runs off the ship is Dracula in disguise? Or am I crazy? DISCUSS.
There are a couple references in these chapters to early Victorian poetry, if you want some further reading:
“Casabianca” (also known as “The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck”) by Felicia Dorothea Hemans is appropriately terrifying and sad, and also involves a lot of people dying on a boat.
“Marmion” by Sir Walter Scott is a fairly long poem that I …have not read. Judging by the plot, it’s moderately scandalous! Let me know if you read this and if there are any interesting parallels to Dracula.
I am a pumpkin disguised in human skin, and it should come as no surprise that fall is my favorite season and September/October are my absolute favorite months. There are a few books I love rereading this time of year, whether because they’re school-themed or Halloween-themed or are plain good and cuddly like a spicy latte. Since I am a scifi-loving pumpkin, the recommendations below are all on the speculative fiction/SF&F side of things.
Grab a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils and enjoy the new school year at one of these magical schools:
“Magisterium” started a couple years back and is still ongoing – it’s definitely part of a wave of books reacting or responding to the Harry Potter series, even though that finished years ago. The first book, The Iron Trial, manages to smash in everything I wanted from Harry Potter but didn’t get, and the authors aren’t afraid to push the envelope in storytelling, diversity, etc.
Girl goes to knight school, is picked on by all the boys, kicks ass, becomes ass-kicking lady knight….I can’t imagine why I would love “Protector of the Small” series by Tamora Pierce. But even besides the ass-kicking, Kel, the protagonist, is such a GOOD character and is constantly looking out for those smaller or weaker than herself. It’s fun watching her slowly form her group of besties and supporters, and seeing her bring out the best in other people. Also, yeah, the kingdom of Tortall is a really fun world to read in, as there are lots of knights, monsters, magic, drama, etc.
I have to mention “Chrestomanci” because it’s Diana Wynne Jones, but the school in it is much smaller and more elite than most fictional magical schools. DWJ does dysfunctional family relationships like no one else, but the characters always survive and grow and change in spite of it, and form their own crazy families if need be. The first published book in the series, Charmed Life, is hilarious and dark and features SO MANY DRESSING GOWNS.
Prepare for the scariest night of the year with these chillers:
I love vampire stories where the vampire is in fact a terrifying clever evil monster, and Dracula is the best at it. This classic by Bram Stoker also has a great cast of non-vampire characters and a slow-build mystery plot. We are also doing a readalong of this one
Honestly Frankenstein by Mary Shelley makes me uncomfortable and sad, but it’s really well-done if you want a horrifying tragic psychological mad scientist fairy tale from hell.
I don’t always love Neil Gaiman but I do consistently love his kids books (see also: Coraline, Odd and the Frost Giants, etc ). The Graveyard Book is based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books, except it’s set in a graveyard and the boy has been raised by ghosts. It’s the perfect mix of heartwarming and terrifying.
All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams is a weird book. The primary protagonist is a ghost woman who has just passed away, but there are other sections from the point of view of characters still living, and all the stories overlap, whether they are taking place in the afterlife version of London or in the physical, “real life” London. There’s a plot to do with some occult plotters, too. IT’S A WEIRD BOOK, OKAY, but really very good.
My ultimate favorite fall-related read is The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.
I reread this book every Halloween because it is ridiculous and fun and magical. It’s historical fiction set right before the reign of Elizabeth I in England, about one of Princess Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting, Katharine. Katharine gets sent into exile to an isolated estate and proceeds to get in trouble with the locals, the lord, his staff, and the mysterious people from under the hill. There’s a lot of banter and a surprising amount of Thick Tawny Golden Hair. It’s an excellent remix on the Tam Lin legend, too.
I focused on speculative fiction for these recommendations, but rukbat3pern on Twitter pointed out that Persuasion by Jane Austen is the perfect autumn book (and is also one of my favorite books of all time).
So in chapter 4 as we’ve seen, Jonathan continues to have a horrifying time. I think it’s weird that Jonathan mentions that the vampire ladies want to suck his blood, though (51)? They only talked about kissing in the last scene, and based on Jon’s reaction to the mirror-throwing I assumed he would assume they were talking about actual kissing. The vampire ladies also appear to be able to morph to/from dust (56), unless that’s just Jonathan hallucinating as they approach? What do you think?
Jon is a newbie in terms of vampire lore, as we see again when the Szgany are unloading the “great, square boxes” (55) with no commentary from Jon. I CAN’T IMAGINE WHAT THOSE ARE FOR.
Jon keeps exhibiting the traditional behavior of literary Victorian women, eg “I sat down and simply cried” (57). I don’t blame Jonathan AT ALL for freaking out 24/7 while he’s in a vampire’s house. But it’s really interesting to me how far this book goes with it, considering that in most Victorian literature the women are constantly having fits of hysterics and attacks of the vapors while the men run off to do the deadly deeds. COMMENTS?
Jon also seems to fear that his experiences in Castle Dracula may have tainted him spiritually or something, implied by when he is considering escape and hoping that “the dreaded Hereafter may be open to me” (58). He doesn’t want to die but also doesn’t want to be damned to hell and I don’t really understand what is going on here, to be honest.
So far I am picturing Dracula as a dragon/leech/basilisk hybrid. Y/N?